Garden Winter Composting by Byron Chitwood.
This is the time of the year when most of the garden vegetable plants have been hit by the first killing frost or freeze. It is now time to start planning for your spring and late winter garden. If you are one of those who have the black soil, it is best to keep it amended by adding compostable material.
First, pull all the dead vegetable plants that were killed in the frost. If possible, shred them and one of the easiest ways to do this is pilling all the aforementioned vegetable in a pile that is not too high and mow it with your rotary mower. Hopefully, you will have a mulching blade and a bag to attach to the lawn mower to catch the shredded material. Spread this evenly over the garden surface and till it into the garden soil with rototillers. If you do not have a rototiller, till the shredded material into the soil with a spade.
Another great source of compostable material is the abundance of leaves. Most neighbors would be glad for you to have their leaves if you would just rake them up. However, the easiest way is to just watch at the curbside and sooner or later, they will either hire somebody to rake and bag them or will in desperation, do it themselves. When they set them out by the curb, carry them to the garden. You can either shred them with the lawn mower or add them to the soil without their being shredded. They will just take a little longer for the microbes to break them down but with enough rain, they will compost by spring planting time.
Another good way to compost material directly into the garden soil is to dig parallel trenches in your garden plat between the raised rows. Add the leaves to the bottom of the trenches and cover with a small amount of soil. The microbes and earth worms will break the leaves down into an organic soil that is much richer than the surrounding soil. You can spade this rich material onto your raised beds and plant directly into this super rich soil.
If you are real energetic or do not have a large garden, after evenly distributing the leaves into the bottom of the trenches, you can move over and spade the all the raised bed’s soil onto the top of the leaves which would create a new raised bed and at the same time, create a new trench or walkway. Fill this walkway with fresh leaves or pine straw to give a good clean surface to walk on. The next year, repeat the process of creating new raised beds and trenches.
There are many commercial composters available such as rotating drum types. You can even build your own using some kind of posts and chicken wire. However, a greater amount of leaves can be composted by utilizing your entire garden space as a “compost pile”.
Composting leaves and plant material does several things such as amending and loosening the soil and at the same time adding nutrients back into the garden. Not nearly as much commercial fertilizer will be needed to insure a bountiful and healthy crop, thus cutting the expense of maintain a garden.
Last but not least, all gardeners by nature are conservationist and they have certainly conserved a valuable resource in utilizing what otherwise would end up in a sanitary landfill.